Saturday 20 January 2018

'Players deserve to be paid for their efforts' - Larkin

Eoin Larkin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Eoin Larkin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

After going through a 12-year Kilkenny hurling career without having to undergo a drugs test, former Cats star Eoin Larkin brands the current measures as a "joke" and is adamant that GAA players shouldn't be subjected to such measures unless they are being financially rewarded for their on-field efforts.

Much furore surrounded the recent leaking of Kerry footballer Brendan O'Sullivan's positive test for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA), with many calling for more frequent testing and stricter implementation of procedures, but Larkin disagrees.

The eight-time All-Ireland winner doesn't feel drugs are an issue in the GAA, and the 2008 Hurler of the Year believes that amateur athletes shouldn't be subjected to the same demands as professionals, without some form of pay for play.

"I don't think it's a problem - I think it's an absolute joke. In the 12 years I was in there I never got drug tested, never. So you're talking about a lad (tester) coming out once a year, testing two or three lads out of 35," Larkin told the Irish Independent.

"Then he tests two or three lads out of 35 after a game. If you're going to do it, do it properly, do it across the board. When I was in there, if you had a sniffle you'd have to ring the doctor and ask could you take a Lemsip.

"'No you can't, don't take that.' That's hardly going to boost your performance now is it? Or a Solpadeine. It's ridiculous, a joke really. I don't think an amateur player should have to do it - and if you're going to make them do it, pay them and let it go semi-pro."

Larkin, who recently left the Army to pursue a career as a technician with biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has no regrets about putting his professional career on hold for hurling but feels that modern players may be less likely to make that sacrifice. In order for the GAA to continue thriving, his solution is to make the organisation semi-professional and reward their greatest natural resource financially, although he can't envisage it happening any time in the near future due to greed.

"They should be paid because of the amount of time inter-county players give up on their career, they have to give up so much," the 32-year-old said.

"If a lad is in a job he's saying 'I can't go for that promotion because there'll be more time wanted to the job'."

"That's your opportunity gone, so give him a few pound. I don't see it happening, though - the GAA are too mean, they're whinging about giving a bit of expenses. Everyone in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day gets paid, bar the players.

"From the referee to the lads selling hot dogs, lads selling drinks, lads behind bars. And if the players aren't there, what do they have in Croke Park? Nothing. The GAA will come back and say they're getting grants, but the grant wouldn't cover what you have to buy for your nutrition for the year and that's a fact.

"Do you know what's going to happen? If players can't get a job or a promotion, they're going to think 'well I can get a promotion here if I step away'.

"You could make them semi-professional and let them do their bit of work as well as playing or give them some form of tax break.

"I have no regrets career wise but playing inter-county certainly stopped me doing a lot of things in the Army. It was always 'If I go and do this I'll be playing in the Championship there' because everything is planned around it.

"You're trying to book tickets for things six months in advance and then you end up training, and you're a boll***s for not being able to go.

"The GAA are more than happy for all the talk about players being paid to have died down completely in recent years."

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Irish Independent

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